Randy Richardson, a friend of my parents and a man I knew and admired, died on Memorial Day. Randy was an important if unheralded figure (unheralded because he preferred to shun the limelight) in the conservative intellectual movement for several decades. Here are excerpts from tributes by his daughter, Heather R. Higgins, and his friend and former colleague, Leslie Lenkowsky, that capture some key aspects of Randy's character and contributions.
My father, Randy Richardson died, fittingly, on Memorial Day. Not only had he quit high school to go serve in the Battle of the Bulge and other delights of Patton’s Third Army, but he committed much of his adult life to trying to do — in his own unusual way — what he could to maintain a free society. The ripples from what he started continue to this day....
In 1973 Dad became the head of a foundation his father had created with an eye to keeping strong the country that had made so much opportunity available to his own family: the Smith Richardson Foundation.
In the 20 years Dad ran the Smith Richardson Foundation, SRF provided seed capital for the development of supply-side and monetarist economics and for early neo-conservative efforts, as well as supporting free-market, pro-democratic, and anti-Communist movements that led to the Reagan revolution and the end of Soviet Communism.
Dad’s patience with high overhead, puffery, and bureaucratic sloth was nil; his skepticism about politicians, even those he agreed with, was ingrained; and his contempt for businessmen who “parked their brains at the door” when it came to philanthropy was legendary. Dad wasn’t an academic, but he was a lifetime learner and an avid reader of history, science, and philosophy. A serious Presbyterian, he was a great believer in the promise of America and the power of common sense....
During his tenure, Dad deliberately kept SRF’s funding anonymous wherever legally possible — in part because he had no patience with being feted, but more importantly because he believed credit belonged to the organizations doing the work. Additionally, he observed that grantees were better served if their funding came without a politicized profile, and that anonymity emboldened the SRF board to take risks in its grant-making, supporting projects that were not yet obvious candidates for funding.
That approach bore bountiful fruit. SRF provided start-up and ongoing funding for pioneering organizations like the Federalist Society, the Manhattan Institute, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Law and Economics Center, the Institute for Educational Affairs, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Committee for the Free World, the Center for Individual Rights, and the National Humanities Center.
Irving Kristol gave credit to Dad not only for initial and ongoing support for The Public Interest, but also for the original grant to that journal’s internship program — which made Dad neo-conservatism’s Godfather’s godfather....
Throughout, Dad looked for talented individuals with good ideas, giving them the resources they needed and then getting out of the way.
Read the whole thing.
And here's Les Lenkowsky:
Randolph (Randy) Richardson...was an unconventional donor who had a significant influence on philanthropy. His grant making played a key role in advancing ideas, such as supply-side economics and an anti-Communist foreign policy that supporters as well as critics credit with moving American government in a more conservative direction. But his legacy applies to all grant makers — especially his belief that good grant making was essentially a process of finding talented people with great ideas and giving them money and freedom to run with them. ...
Not for Randy were such currently fashionable nostrums as "strategic philanthropy," "grand challenges," and "capacity building" or their earlier equivalents.
For him, a good grant was one that provided funding to a promising scholar or organization that was too little known or held views too far from the mainstream to get support from other donors. (Martin Feldstein and Michael Boskin, two future chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, were among many who benefited from Smith Richardson’s support early in their careers.) What ultimately mattered for successful philanthropy, in other words, were not the visions and ideas of a foundation’s directors, staff, and consultants but those of its grantees.